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Designation of Shirley-Eustis Place as Boston landmark celebrated

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Landmarks Commission

The Boston Landmarks Commission will commemorate the hidden history of Shirley-Eustis Place in Roxbury, which is believed to have been built and managed by enslaved people.

Today, Mayor Janey and the Boston Landmarks Commission celebrate the designation of Roxbury’s Shirley-Eustis Place, 33 and 42-44 Shirley Street and 24 Rockford Street, as a Boston Landmark, under the provisions of Chapter 772 of the Acts of 1975, as amended. This designation follows a unanimous vote of approval by the Boston City Council. 

With its well-known historical significance comes a hidden history that is often untold, unrecorded, and unrecognized. Ongoing research suggests that when Governor Shirley and Governor Eustis’ owned the property, the house and lands were maintained by enslaved persons of African descent. It further suggests that enslaved people may have occupied portions of 42–44 Shirley Street, which was then an outbuilding, likely a barn. 

Mayor Kim Janey joined residents, local leaders, and members of the Boston Landmark Commission for the official sign off of "Historical Landmark" status for the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury.
Mayor Kim Janey joined residents, local leaders, and members of the Boston Landmark Commission for the official sign off of "Historical Landmark" status for the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury.

The Shirley-Eustis House, located on 33 Shirley Street in Roxbury, was built between 1746 and 1749 as a summer estate for Massachusetts Colony Governor William Shirley (1694–1771). The house has further historical significance as the home of Massachusetts Governor William Eustis (1753–1825). It is one of the last remaining colonial governor’s mansions in the original Thirteen Colonies and was recognized as one of the nation’s first National Historic Landmarks in the 1960s. 

Mayor Janey’s support for the designation of the Shirley-Eustis grounds as a historic landmark in Roxbury expands the City’s history that is often centered in Downtown Boston. The milestone comes after more than a year of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, and a national reckoning with acts of violence against Black and other communities of color.

“As we face modern-day racial inequities, it is essential to acknowledge our past by encouraging opportunities for collective processing of grief and investing in healing,'' said Mayor Kim Janey. “I am grateful to all of our partners who helped us unearth this hidden history and for the Roxbury community who passed these stories down through generations.” 

Mayor Janey grew up in Roxbury which is a hub, both past and present, for African Americans’ grassroots activism and community organizing for housing, educational, and economic equity. It is home to organizations like the Freedom House, founded by Otto and Muriel Snowden; and the Organization for Afro-American Unity founded by Malcolm X, all engaged in the fight for justice, equality, and power. The location of the Shirley-Eustis House grounds in Roxbury brings even more significance to the importance of honoring its history.

“For generations, the history of Shirley-Eustis Place has been celebrated in Boston and nationally,” said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space for the City of Boston. “Today and every day moving forward, we must lift up the unheralded layers of our city’s history and memorialize the enslaved people who are believed to have built and maintained these grounds. I am grateful for Mayor Janey’s support and for the Boston Landmarks Commission and the City Council’s unanimous vote to bring light to this hidden history.” 

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